Jean Luc Ponty

Were prog rock icons great? Yes!

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
Jon Davison performs in Yes during the Yes – The Album Series concert at the Lynn Memorial Auditorium on Thursday.

BY BILL BROTHERTON

LYNN — The death of founding bassist Chris Squire last year means there are no original members in the current touring band of progressive rock titans Yes.

Jon Anderson seems content to work with Jean Luc Ponty and focus on the upcoming “An Evening of Yes Music & More” tour with Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman (at Boston’s Wang Theater on Oct. 19).

To further complicate matters, longtime drummer Alan White, who joined in 1972, is recuperating from recent back surgery and had to sit out Thursday night’s show at Lynn Memorial Auditorium.

Steve Howe, of YES, jams on the guitar during the YES - The Album Series concert at Lynn Memorial Auditorium on Thursday. shasak | Item Live

Steve Howe, of Yes, jams on the guitar during the Yes – The Album Series concert at Lynn Memorial Auditorium on Thursday.

So, how did the lineup of Steve Howe (guitars), Geoff Downes (keyboards), Billy Sherwood (bass), Jay Schellen (drums) and Jon Davison (vocals) fare? Pretty darn well, thank you very much.

But this was truly a show for Yes die-hards. Marginal fans who went expecting to hear “Owner of a Lonely Heart” — a turgid pile of you know what IMHO — and other radio-friendly tunes were probably ready to take poison about halfway through the close-to-25-minute set-ending “Ritual (Nous Sommes du Soleil).”

This was also the hardest rocking, aggressive-sounding Yes show I’ve seen in a long time. The band is on the road performing the 1980 album “Drama” in its entirety, sides 1 and 4 of 1973’s  bombastic, fantastic opus “Tales from Topographic Oceans” and a handful of greatest “hits.”

The stage was jam-packed with instruments and equipment. The space allotted for Downes’ keyboards was larger than my first apartment.

The six songs from the hard-rocking “Drama” kicked things off. Howe was on fire from the start, the menacing “Machine Messiah,” to the beautiful acoustic solo during “Leaves of Green.” He was a man possessed. He came to play, and drummer Schellen pushed him all night.

Vocalist Davison sounds so much like Anderson it’s eerie. He hits high notes that only dogs can hear; his tighty-whities must’ve been particularly tight. He shined on “Into the Lens” and fan favorites “I’ve Seen All Good People” and “Siberian Khatru,” which revved up the crowd even more before a 20-minute interval (that’s Brit-speak for intermission).

It’s a shame White missed the gig, because the ambitious “Topographic Oceans” was the first Yes album he played on. (Steven Wilson has remixed the double album; it will be released next month.) I always found the album indulgent and banal, but the crowd was jazzed and attentive and even rowdy during the long (20-minutes-plus) “The Revealing Science of God (Dance of the Dawn)” and especially the percussion freakout with synchronized lights and smoke in “Ritual.”

The encore (that’s Brit-speak for encore), a one-two punch of “Roundabout” and “Starship Trooper,” got the crowd clapping, standing and cheering.


Bill Brotherton can be reached at bbrotherton@itemlive.com